Thursday, November 29, 2012

Palm Springs Student Christmas Banners

Palm Springs this week seems to be a haven from the California coastal storms, with eighty degree afternoons and mild nights.

Making the place even more welcoming is the Christmas signage along Palm Canyon Drive, designed and painted by local school kids who annually compete for the honor.

On a post about the banners six years ago, Joy Meredith who owns the Crystal Fantasy shop downtown, left the following comment: "Thank you for posting pictures of the banner program. I am the volunteer coordinator since its inception 19 years ago. We have a $1500 budget which is for blank banners and paint. These banners are actually handpainted by the students. We get 100's of entries and have 50 new banners painted each year...It is my favorite thing to do! Happy children, parents, schools, downtown businesses!"

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From Xmas Tree to Palm Tree

A Non-Christmas "Holiday Tree" was raised in front of San Francisco's City Hall on Tuesday morning...

...just in time for the ARkStorm that is heading to Northern California this week.

Flying out of the city yesterday afternoon, I woke up this morning to the trees above in Palm Springs. Thanks for the warning, Kit Stolz, and good luck with the storm, everyone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Art with Words

The Words as ART with Words exhibit at the Asian Art Museum just suddenly appeared a couple of weeks ago without any warning or publicity. It's not even mentioned on the museum's Exhibitions website page.

This seems to be part of the institution's attempt to jazz up their permanent collection galleries, such as they did with the recent Phantoms of Asia exhibit about religious cosmology. This time it feels better focused, and the "Art with Words" extends from illustrated Indian manuscripts to an intricately illuminated 1882 Koran from Iran.

In the Korean wing, there are a few beautiful examples of calligraphy on scrolls and screens, such as Personal observations of a scholar official by Gwon Dongsu from the late 19th century.

As usual, the Japanese win all the design prizes, with the 1593 book Shukaso (Gleanings from the Mist) above...

...and Calligraphy of waka poetry on cards by Hon'ami Koetsu from the early 17th century above and below.

Even their modern takes on calligraphy are great, such as Inoue Yuichi's Wolf below.

Free Sunday admission at the Asian is this week, and you should consider taking the museum up on their offer.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Words as Art

In conjunction with their special Chinese calligraphy exhibit, the Asian Art Museum has installed various examples of "Words as Art" throughout their permanent collections on the second and third floors.

I was dismissive of the Out of Character exhibit at first sight, because it seemed obscure and impenetrable if you didn't read Chinese.

The revelation came about a month ago while seated in front of a huge, curved wall installation that has been devoted to the 16th century Thousand Character Classic by Wen-Peng. The characters are so sharp and comprehensible that it feels a bit like seeing the Helvetica font version of Chinese calligraphy. The longer you look the more there is to notice, in the repeating patterns that constitute the characters, and the beauty in their forthright presentation. (Photo above is from the Asian Art Museum blog.)

After studying the Wen-Peng, where you have memorized the basics of 1,000 characters, everything else is stylization, such as Poem in wild-cursive script above from 1674 by Monk Pomen.

The Chinese galleries in the permanent collection are also displaying some stunners from the 19th century, such as the 1804 Studio of Knowledgeable Friends by Yi Bingshou above and Zhao Zhiqian's 1883 Couplet from a poem by Yuan Haowen below.

Though it is completely illusory, I am starting to feel like I can read Chinese.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Sea Lions

On a supernaturally beautiful Thanksgiving morning, we walked to Fisherman's Wharf from Civic Center, and joined hundreds of tourists from around the globe at Pier 39... watch a colony of sea lions who have made a set of wooden boat docks their own since 1989...

...where their population mysteriously varies from month to month and year to year.

Watching them at play in the water and then stretching out on the docks is enchanting.

If reincarnation exists, I want to come back as a San Francisco sea lion.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ivan Grianti's Wall Project

Lower Polk Street on Thanksgiving morning was the usual collection of homeless tumbling out of their shelters and starting their long day of zigzagging from one lavish soup kitchen to another, but we also ran across the young artist Ivan Grianti above working on a mural near Sutter Street.

For a tumblr site with his photos, click here, and for a collection of his online videos, click here.

The incomplete "Wall Project" looks like it's going to be spectacularly beautiful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Language of Cloth

A small collection of turn of the 19th/20th century Batiks from Java has opened on the second floor of the Asian Art Museum.

Some of the wax designs are as intricate as anything seen on a Persian rug.

Last weekend, the gift shop was sponsoring a trunk show by textile collector Daniel Gundlach above of handmade Southeast Asian textiles.

Daniel also has a holiday pop-up store in the Mission District called The Language of Cloth (click here for the website) at 650-A Guerrero Street, between 18th and 19th, just up the street from Tartine Bakery. The hours are 10-6 Friday through Sunday, and his stuff is beautiful and affordable.

A three-month contract job for a San Francisco insurance company is ending tomorrow, and I am rewarding myself with a trip to Palm Springs for most of December, so it seemed like a perfect time to buy the blue sarong above for poolside loungewear.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Single Sapling NSFW Warning

The long lines of gnarled old sycamores in Civic Center Plaza have been joined by a single sapling, replacing a dead or injured tree. It's here for your viewing pleasure, along with a warning that the next post should probably not be viewed at work, depending on your place of employment.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Frank Chu and The Nudists at City Hall

After breakfast at Market and Eighth at Sam's, I ran into Frank Chu (above and below left). He was marching determinedly up Grove Street with his Galaxies/Laughing Squid sign, looking more than usually untucked.

"Where you going, Frank?" I asked him politely, and he just as politely pointed towards San Francisco City Hall and said, "Nudists at noon in front of City Hall. Should be in about five minutes." As Colleen O. writes in her five-star review of Frank Chu on Yelp (click here): "Any major outdoor event in San Francisco isn't *really* a major outdoor event in San Francisco until Frank Chu shows up. Once you see that sign bobbing over the crowd, you know the party is on."

The nudists who are being harassed in the Castro and Market parklet (click here) have decided to bring their message to Civic Center. Earlier in the week, they were seen marching up the sidewalk by a contingent of teenagers who had been bused in for an afternoon Tosca dress rehearsal at the Opera House. Reportedly the students laughed and applauded for the nudists. "Welcome to the neighborhood," I told them.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Veterans Day Parade

The traditionally lightly attended Veterans Day Parade took place on Sunday.

Cute Girl Scouts and Brownies marched up Market Street to the Civic Center...

...along with militant young Filipinos demanding veterans economic justice for their grandparents...

...and some of those same grandparents riding up the parade route in a motorized cable car plastered with signage.

There was a bizarre Eagle/Big Bird from talk radio KSFO...

...along with high school bands and drill teams.

The saddest and most poignant group were the recent Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are about as popular as the Vietnam disaster.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Civic Center Tree Trimming

The French sycamores in Civic Center were being given their severe winter pruning this last weekend...

...and the plaza was covered with leaves.

Supposedly this makes the trees healthier in the long run, but it also creates a stark winter scene for the next four months or so.

You would think we lived in northern France rather than California, which is probably the idea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Persecuted Tibetan Blogglers

Saturday afternoon downtown a protest march suddenly appeared around 3rd and Market Streets.

It consisted of a couple thousand Tibetans, friends and supporters spreading the word about Chinese cultural suppression in their old kingdom in the Himalayas.

My money is with the Tibetans, to tell you the truth. If you have ever been to the Asian Art Museum, it's obvious through their art that the Tibetans are some of the most fierce and enlightened people on the planet.

A favorite bit of signage involved persecuted 'BLOGGLERS,' the best typo/neologism of the year.